The Place to Be

Vientiane river food

I sit now at the Sone Restaurant along the muddy Mekong. A man, a boy and a girl fish along the banks below me. I order a banana and watermelon shake, no sugar, and its mild sweetness makes me happy.

My body leans against a triangular pillow, and I write in my journal on a table the size of a lapdesk. The sun falls against my back, casting long shadows before me, illuminating a small wooden cruise boat where a young man sets tables for dinner — bright red roses upon dazzling yellow tablecloths.

The riverfront here stretches a mile or more with restaurants like these, some with full-sized tables and plastic lawn chairs; each serving barbecued chicken and fish, spicy Lao sausage, papaya salad, laap, and all the basics of a Vientiane dinner. Is it touristy? Yes, of course; travelers congregate here among the eats and views. But it’s also where the locals linger over a Sunday afternoon. The sun goes down and the restaurant fills with Asian residents and visitors. So far, I am the only falang. But as the evening progresses, it seems the world finds its way to this riverfront. Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, American, French, German, English, Australian, Indian, Swedish, Swiss — this is the place to be. I love that about Vientiane, about Laos. I love that all of us eat so well in this enchanting spot, touristy or not.

Places like these are proof that humanity, disparate as it is, still finds common ground in a good meal and a graceful view. And isn’t that a comforting thought?

Vientiane river

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